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Military Affairs

UK and France backing away from Syria strike?

The shaky coalition of Western nations promising to strike Syria for its alleged use of chemical weapons is getting even shakier.  In the UK, Prime Minister David Cameron is reconsidering:

David Cameron backed down and agreed to delay a military attack on Syria following a growing revolt over the UK’s rushed response to the crisis on Wednesday night.

The Prime Minister has now said he will wait for a report by United Nations weapons inspectors before seeking the approval of MPs for “direct British involvement” in the Syrian intervention.

Oh look … Cameron plans on getting the approval of Parliament before committing British troops to war.

That’s because opposition British politicians apparently play hardball while ours … well they talk and complain a lot:

Senior sources had previously suggested that Britain would take part in strikes as soon as this weekend which meant an emergency recall of Parliament was necessary on Thursday.

However, following Labour threatening not to support the action and senior military figures expressing concerns over the wisdom of the mission, the Prime Minister on Wednesday night agreed to put British involvement on hold.

The climbdown is likely to be seen as an embarrassment for Mr Cameron as he was determined to play a leading role in British military strikes, which had been expected this weekend.

France too is showing signs of waffling:

French President Francois Hollande said on Thursday that Syria needed a political solution, but that could only happen if the international community could halt killings like last week’s chemical attack and better support the opposition.

Hollande sounded a more cautious note than earlier in the week, when he said France stood ready to punish those behind the apparent poison gas attack that killed hundreds of civilians in Damascus.

He indicated that France was looking to Gulf Arab countries to step up their military support to the opposition to President Bashar al-Assad, after Paris said this week it would do so.

Not exactly the saber rattling that was going on a few days ago.  It appears a “political solution” may be code words for “yeah, we’re climbing down too.”

Don’t expect a climbdown here.  At least not anytime soon. Not only has President Obama said he doesn’t need Congress’s approval, he’s also decided he doesn’t need to inform the American people of his decision via a televised Oval Office announcement.  However he would like the cover of a coalition (my, the shadenfreude here is delicious, isn’t it?).

If one had to guess, however, any strike this week would be sans the British and the French.  And that may be enough to delay an American strike (don’t forget, President Obama claims he hasn’t made a decision yet).

Meanwhile in the Med, tensions spiral up as Russia decides to flex a little naval muscle in the area:

Russia will “over the next few days” be sending an anti-submarine ship and a missile cruiser to the Mediterranean as the West prepares for possible strikes against Syria, the Interfax news agency said on Thursday.

“The well-known situation shaping up in the eastern Mediterranean called for certain corrections to the make-up of the naval forces,” a source in the Russian General Staff told Interfax.

Interesting.  And, if the strikes don’t happen now, who will claim to have helped call the coalition’s bluff?

As with most things concerning foreign affairs that this administration involves itself, this is turning into a debacle of major proportion.

Stay tuned.

~McQ

An attack destined to fail

One of the first things any military commander must do is define the mission clearly and succinctly. It must have a goal and that goal must be achievable with the assets the commander is willing or able to commit to the mission.

What it shouldn’t be is some nebulous one-over-the-world hand wave of a mission driven by politics and open to interpretation. Unfortunately, it appears that’s precisely the type mission the Obama administration is ginning up for Syria according to the NY Times:

President Obama is considering military action against Syria that is intended to “deter and degrade” President Bashar al-Assad’s government’s ability to launch chemical weapons, but is not aimed at ousting Mr. Assad from power or forcing him to the negotiating table, administration officials said Tuesday.

“Deter and degrade” are open to interpretation and Syria could and likely would initiate another chemical attack after the US attacks just to point out that they’re neither deterred or degraded.

Here’s the problem:

The strikes would instead be aimed at military units that have carried out chemical attacks, the headquarters overseeing the effort and the rockets and artillery that have launched the attacks, according to the options being reviewed within the administration.

An American official said that the initial target lists included fewer than 50 sites, including air bases where Syria’s Russian-made attack helicopters are deployed. The list includes command and control centers as well as a variety of conventional military targets.

A) We’ve told them where we’ll strike.  Since it is a limited strike and it is going to be against specific units, Syria has the option of dispersing them, an option I’m sure they’ll take.  They’ll also likely disperse them in to highly populated urban areas where they can.

B) We’ve told them what we’re going to strike.  Since they have thousands of artillery pieces capable of firing chemical shells, it is unlikely a limited strike is going to even seriously dent that capability.  Moving artillery into the cities would likely deter the US more than the US would deter Syria.  Helicopters can be moved as well.  They don’t need long runways. Other aircraft will be dispersed  And finally, command and control are easily moved and dispersed.

C) We’ve told them how we’re going to strike.  It is clear that if an attack does happen it is not something that is supported by the majority of the American people for various reasons.  Couple that with a seemingly risk averse commander and you can pretty well define how this will happen – missiles.  Specifically Tomahawk missiles.  Given our history of their use, you can pretty much guess at what and where they’ll be aimed.

D) We’ve pretty well told them it won’t be much of a strike.

Perhaps two to three missiles would be aimed at each site, a far more limited unleashing of American military power than past air campaigns over Kosovo or Libya.

Result?

Well even the administration knows this is a recipe for failure so they immediately engage is a classic attempt to lower expectations:

Some of the targets would be “dual use” systems, like artillery that is capable of firing chemical weapons as well as conventional rounds. Taking out those artillery batteries would degrade to some extent the government’s conventional force — but would hardly cripple Mr. Assad’s sizable military infrastructure and forces unless the air campaign went on for days or even weeks.

The goal of the operation is “not about regime change,” a State Department spokeswoman, Marie Harf, said Tuesday. Seeking to reassure the public that the United States would not be drawn into a civil war in the Middle East, and perhaps to lower expectations of what the attack might accomplish, Obama administration officials acknowledged that their action would not accomplish Mr. Obama’s repeated demand that Mr. Assad step down.

And what would we accomplish?  Well likely the opposite of what we hoped would happen – deterrence and degradation.  Assad would be invited to prove the US wasn’t successful in either by doing what?  Using chemical weapons once again.  His reasoning would be that since he’s being accused of doing so, and supposedly punished for doing so, there’s no reason not to do it again.

Then what?

~McQ

How bad do you have to be NOT to be hired?

I wondered, when Barack Obama was re-elected, how bad you had to be to be fired.  Apparently worse than Obama, if that’s possible.

Now, with the confirmation of Chuck Hagel – another politician who has never run a large or complex organization and who was abysmal in his confirmation hearings – I have to wonder how bad you have to be NOT to be hired.

Apparently, worse than Chuck Hagel, if that’s possible:

Republicans siding with Democrats, the U.S. Senate voted Tuesday to confirm Chuck Hagel as President Obama’s secretary of defense, a nomination that drew strong opposition within the Republican former senator’s own party, with some troubled by past statements on Israel and Iran.

GOP Sens. Rand Paul (Ky.), Thad Cochran (Miss.), Mike Johanns, (Nebr.) and Richard Shelby (Ala.) supported Hagel in the 58-41 vote. No Democrats opposed him.

Again, let down by the GOP (the ‘good old boy club’ just couldn’t say no to a former member).

Anyone seeing a pattern here?

~McQ

Benghazi bottom line

Two things we now know the President didn’t do.  First from CBS:

CBS News has learned that during the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Mission in Benghazi, the Obama Administration did not convene its top interagency counterterrorism resource: the Counterterrorism Security Group, (CSG).

“The CSG is the one group that’s supposed to know what resources every agency has. They know of multiple options and have the ability to coordinate counterterrorism assets across all the agencies,” a high-ranking government official told CBS News. “They were not allowed to do their job. They were not called upon.”

The second from a former SEAL officer who knows the protocol necessary to launch a rescue from outside Libya:

No administration wants to stumble into a war because a jet jockey in hot pursuit (or a mixed-up SEAL squad in a rubber boat) strays into hostile territory. Because of this, only the president can give the order for our military to cross a nation’s border without that nation’s permission. For the Osama bin Laden mission, President Obama granted CBA for our forces to enter Pakistani airspace.

On the other side of the CBA coin: in order to prevent a military rescue in Benghazi, all the POTUS has to do is not grant cross-border authority. If he does not, the entire rescue mission (already in progress) must stop in its tracks.

So, bottom line – He didn’t convene the CSG which would have been the lead agency to coordinate an attempted rescue from outside the country and he apparently never gave the CBA (which only he can issue) necessary to do so.

Or, in other words, he lied about doing everything necessary to save and protect the lives of those in combat in Libya.

Finally, the cover-up and attempting to deflect the blame:

Leon Panetta is falling on his sword for President Obama with his absurd-on-its-face, “the U.S. military doesn’t do risky things”-defense of his shameful no-rescue policy. Panetta is utterly destroying his reputation. General Dempsey joins Panetta on the same sword with his tacit agreement by silence. But why? How far does loyalty extend when it comes to covering up gross dereliction of duty by the president?

Great question.  Don’t expect an answer anytime soon.

~McQ

Benghazi: Cowardice and incompetence

A deadly combination. If this election is about “trust” as Obama likes to say, then I trust him about as far as I could throw him.

This lady does about as good a job as you’ll see laying it all out:

Interesting footnote and something the Obama campaign has apparently forgotten:

A strikingly similar story from across the pond proves that honesty in the wake of terrorist attacks matters to voters.

On March 11, 2004, an al-Qaida terrorist cell bombed the commuter train system in Madrid, Spain. Nearly 200 people were killed.

The attack came just three days before Spain’s prime ministerial election. At the time, incumbent Jose Maria Aznar was enjoying a small lead in the polls. But the attack changed everything — and Aznar ended up losing to challenger Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero by five points.

Today, the consensus is that Aznar lost the election because of his mishandling and misrepresentation of the Madrid bombings. Aznar and his party claimed the bombings were the work of a Basque separatist organization, despite evidence to the contrary. The theory is that because Spain had recently entered the Iraq War — something that was unpopular with the Spanish electorate at the time — Aznar believed that admitting al-Qaida was behind the attack would damage his re-election chances.

The parallel between the Madrid bombings and the Benghazi attack is obvious. Like the Madrid bombings, the Benghazi attack happened in the midst of a heated campaign season and was followed by confusion, false assertions, and — worse — misrepresentations by the very political leaders asking for the electorate’s trust.

At the very least, the Obama administration bungled its response to the Benghazi attack. And the more information about the attack that surfaces, the worse President Obama looks.

Indeed. Keep this alive, because it illustrates explicitly why Obama is not someone this country can trust.

~McQ

Benghazi – OK, this is serious and it’s bad

Leon Panetta wants to dismiss all of this as “Monday morning quarterbacking”. I beg to differ.

Fox News has learned from sources who were on the ground in Benghazi that an urgent request from the CIA annex for military back-up during the attack on the U.S. consulate and subsequent attack several hours later was denied by U.S. officials — who also told the CIA operators twice to “stand down” rather than help the ambassador’s team when shots were heard at approximately 9:40 p.m. in Benghazi on Sept. 11.

If true, and there is a shred of evidence to support this, this is malfeasance of the worst type. You have an ambassador in danger in an unsecured location that is basically indefensible and is calling for help and those who could help are told to “stand down?”

Seriously?

Of course two of the former SEALs disregarded that order and went.

But according to Fox it wasn’t just the CIA Annex that was told to “stand down”. The CIA Annex then came under attack:

At that point, they called again for military support and help because they were taking fire at the CIA safe house, or annex. The request was denied. There were no communications problems at the annex, according those present at the compound. The team was in constant radio contact with their headquarters. In fact, at least one member of the team was on the roof of the annex manning a heavy machine gun when mortars were fired at the CIA compound.

The security officer had a laser on the target that was firing and repeatedly requested back-up support from a Spectre gunship, which is commonly used by U.S. Special Operations forces to provide support to Special Operations teams on the ground involved in intense firefights. The fighting at the CIA annex went on for more than four hours — enough time for any planes based in Sigonella Air base, just 480 miles away, to arrive. Fox News has also learned that two separate Tier One Special operations forces were told to wait, among them Delta Force operators.

So we have a 4 hour gun battle going on at an obviously sensitive installation, we have drones on site, F/A 18s an hour away, a C-130 Spectre gun ship about an hour and a half away and they’re denied support?

Yup:

A Special Operations team, or CIF which stands for Commanders in Extremis Force, operating in Central Europe had been moved to Sigonella, Italy, but they never told to deploy. In fact, a Pentagon official says there were never any requests to deploy assets from outside the country. A second force that specializes in counterterrorism rescues was on hand at Sigonella, according to senior military and intelligence sources. According to those sources, they could have flown to Benghazi in less than two hours. They were the same distance to Benghazi as those that were sent from Tripoli. Spectre gunships are commonly used by the Special Operations community to provide close air support.

According to sources on the ground during the attack, the special operator on the roof of the CIA annex had visual contact and a laser pointing at the Libyan mortar team that was targeting the CIA annex. The operators were calling in coordinates of where the Libyan forces were firing from.

Why?

Secretary Leon Panetta told reporters at the Pentagon on Thursday that there was not a clear enough picture of what was occurring on the ground in Benghazi to send help.

“There’s a lot of Monday morning quarterbacking going on here,” Panetta said Thursday. “But the basic principle here … is that you don’t deploy forces into harm’s way without knowing what’s going on.”

Let’s try this again … you had your people under attack, you had drones on site, you had a spec ops guy on the roof lasing the mortar team and Panetta claims they “didn’t know what was going on?”

That says a hell of a lot more about Panetta and Obama than anyone else.  Anyone worth their salt goes for over kill, not “wait and see” in a situation like that. Situations like this are why you have contingency plans and units designated as Quick Reaction Forces (QRF).  You can always recall your forces.  And, if you give even a stinking whit about force protection you go in and secure the area and personnel who were under attack anyway.

That should be SOP and, as you can tell, they had the forces available to do that.   Panetta is full of exactly what Obama accused Romney of.

This is a farce.  A deadly farce that was mishandled from the get go.

U.S. officials argue that there was a period of several hours when the fighting stopped before the mortars were fired at the annex, leading officials to believe the attack was over.

Anyone know what this is considered in the military?  A groundless assumption.  We don’t operate off groundless assumptions.  We react and do what is necessary based on reality and in order to secure our personnel and facilities.  And, what “U.S. officials” are arguing is a steaming pile of BS and anyone with an ounce of sense knows that.

And what did their utter and incomprehensible incompetence cause?  Death.  Death to OUR people, that’s what:

Tyrone Woods was later joined at the scene by fellow former Navy SEAL Glen Doherty, who was sent in from Tripoli as part of a Global Response Staff or GRS that provides security to CIA case officers and provides countersurveillance and surveillance protection. They were killed by a mortar shell at 4 a.m. Libyan time, nearly seven hours after the attack on the consulate began — a window that represented more than enough time for the U.S. military to send back-up from nearby bases in Europe, according to sources familiar with Special Operations. Four mortars were fired at the annex. The first one struck outside the annex. Three more hit the annex.

But you know, the Prez was late for a date in Las Vegas, so … no time for that sort of nonsense.

~McQ

Obama’s Navy: Ignorance or intent?

A little more on the abject ignorance Obama displayed concerning the Navy.  Or was it, instead, the usual attempt to have it both ways?  You know, talk about how everything is under control while in reality it is spinning out of control?  Or, as we’ve warned many times, don’t believe a thing the man says, look at what he does.

In this case:

The Obama administration’s neglect of the Navy can be typified by the early retirement of the USS Enterprise (CVN 65) and its plans to decommission other naval assets. In August of this year, I outlined on NRO why the Enterprise should remain in service, but the Big E is only the most prominent asset slated for premature retirement. The administration also plans to decommission and scrap six Ticonderoga-class cruisers, although the vessels have as many as 15 years of service life left (even without further overhauls). Maintaining freedom of the seas requires hulls in the water — and the Navy hasn’t even started building the replacements for these cruisers. At present, all we have is a design study called CGX, which may or may not enter production.

Got that?  6 Ticonderoga-class cruisers being decommissioned, all with at least 15 years service life left.  These are the cruisers, as mentioned yesterday, which protect those things we have called aircraft carriers.

Here’s another report that makes it clear that the administration’s plan is, in fact, leaving the carrier strike groups even more vulnerable than they are now:

As noted at the Navy-oriented Information Dissemination blog, when the proposed cuts were first outlined in late 2011, the decommissioning plan will take out of service cruisers that can be upgraded with the ballistic missile defense (BMD) package – now a core capability for the Navy – while keeping five cruisers that cannot receive the BMD upgrade.

Emphasis mine. That borders on criminal.  After bloviating about technology and capability, his plan is to reduce both.

Meanwhile, here’s the stark reality of the situation the Obama administration has created:

His administration, in an effort to cut costs, proposed the retirement of the USS Enterprise (which his allies in Congress passed in 2009) and the six cruisers. Numerous crises are heating up around the world, as recent events show, but there is no indication that Obama has reconsidered these retirement plans. Certainly, it would not be hard to halt the retirements, and extenuating circumstances clearly warrant a supplemental appropriations bill. None of our carriers or submarines — no matter how high-tech they are — are capable of covering the Persian Gulf and South China Sea at the same time, or the Mediterranean Sea and the Korean Peninsula simultaneously.

Or, said a much simpler way, and despite Obama’s ignorant claims, we don’t have enough ships to cover all the contingencies that his failed foreign policy has helped foment.  Technology still can’t have you in two places at once.

Instead, we have a Commander-in-Chief who apparently thinks those things we call aircraft carriers are like magic unicorns.  You kind of wave one toward a crisis and everything works out.  He has no concept of force protection.  He has no idea how a carrier strike group operates.  He just knows we have these things called aircraft carriers and they’re apparently magic because, you know, we have this “technology” and we’re much more “capable” than when it was all about horses and bayonets.  Or something.

Reality?

Yet in 2010, the Navy could only fulfill 53% of the requirements for presence and missions levied by the combatant commanders (e.g., CENTCOM, PACOM).  Cutting this Navy will reduce further its ability to fill warfighter requirements.

This guy is dangerous, folks.  His ignorance is both appalling and frightening.

He needs to go.

~McQ

3rd Debate: Snarky Obama reveals his military ignorance (update)

Obama the arrogant had quite a time last night … being arrogant, that is.

And, as usual, anyone who knew reality had to laugh at his posturing, since it revealed a horrendous level of ignorance.

What am I talking about?  His quip about “horses and bayonets” and his nonsense about the size of the Navy.

We’ve all heard, I’m sure, the line that “amateurs talk tactics while professionals talk logistics”.

Question: Are those “more capable ships” more capable of supply and support than ships of old?  No.  There’s a “tooth to tail” ratio that is required for any fleet to function and function well.  We have 11 carrier strike groups out there.   They have a certain number of ships in each battle group that are designed to do what?  Protect the carrier.  But those ships have to be resupplied.  Having stood on the deck of the USS Kearsarge and watched at sea refueling take place, I can confidently tell you it requires another ship.

Additionally, there’s now concern, given the lethality and accuracy of weaponry out there, that the ships assigned to protect the carriers may not be adequate to the job.  In other words, we many need more (presently they have 2 Ticonderoga class Ageis guided missile cruisers, two to three Arleigh Burke class guided missile destroyers and to LA class attack submarines plus a carrier air wing).  We’re talking about the possibility of overwhelming missile attacks as they’re presently configured.  Reality.

Then, consider we have a “gator navy” as well, which is also in need of further protection.  Put the new littoral combat ships into the mix and you are again in need of the ability to refuel and resupply.  Pretending the current fleet configuration and number is adequate to the new expanded mission pointed toward the Pacific is about as “horses and bayonets” as one can get.  Pure defensive nonsense and ignorant posturing.

And by the way, we still use bayonets.  The reason we don’t have as many as we once had is because this President had cut the Army and Marine Corps during his tenure.

But to the point, all that bloviating by Obama about how he carefully set out the fleet size with the SecNav etc. is just that, bloviating.  He made unilateral and deep cuts in defense spending all by his lonesome.  $500 billion over 10 years.  That’s his.  No one else’s.  They have nothing to do with sequestration which promises another $500 billion in cuts.

And don’t believe his promise that “sequestration won’t happen”.  While it may not, it won’t have  a thing to do with him.  He’s provided nothing in terms of leadership on the question and no one believes he will.  He’s just “hoping” it won’t happen and prove him right.  But don’t expect him to actually do anything to try to prevent it.

Oh, who won?

Given the spin, pretty much a draw at worst.  Both sides are claiming victory.  A prickly, defensive and condescending Obama, given his abysmal record, didn’t help himself at all.  He just proved how small he really is.

UPDATE: Like minds.

~McQ

Obama campaign moves to restrict military voting in Ohio

Breitbart’s Mike Flynn reports:

President Barack Obama, along with many Democrats, likes to say that, while they may disagree with the GOP on many issues related to national security, they absolutely share their admiration and dedication to members of our armed forces. Obama, in particular, enjoys being seen visiting troops and having photos taken with members of our military. So, why is his campaign and the Democrat party suing to restrict their ability to vote in the upcoming election?

On July 17th, the Obama for America Campaign, the Democratic National Committee, and the Ohio Democratic Party filed suit in OH to strike down part of that state’s law governing voting by members of the military. Their suit said that part of the law is "arbitrary" with "no discernible rational basis."

Currently, Ohio allows the public to vote early in-person up until the Friday before the election. Members of the military are given three extra days to do so. While the Democrats may see this as "arbitrary" and having "no discernible rational basis," I think it is entirely reasonable given the demands on servicemen and women’s time and their obligations to their sworn duty.

Flynn cites the National Defense Committee which reports:

[f]or each of the last three years, the Department of Defense’s Federal Voting Assistance Program has reported to the President and the Congress that the number one reason for military voter disenfranchisement is inadequate time to successfully vote.

So here is a law actually trying to provide a little extra time to address the problem cited (btw, the members of the military would most likely have to show their military picture ID to be granted the opportunity to vote during that “extra time”).  Why the resistance from the Obama campaign and Democrats?   Why the intent to disenfranchise military voters?

If the polls are to be believed concerning how the military is likely to vote, it wouldn’t favor Obama or the Democrats.  And, of course, Ohio is a swing state.  So they want no extra time allowed for the military to vote (and don’t expect the DoJ to jump in here and take the side of the military either).

Mystery solved.

But hey, the military is still useful as props during photo ops and when they help burnish the C-i-C’s rep by killing bad guys like Osama.  Voting?  Yeah, not so much.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

Is Iran preparing to close the Straits of Hormuz?

That’s what our intel guys are saying:

U.S. government officials, citing new intelligence, said Iran has developed plans to disrupt international oil trade, including through attacks on oil platforms and tankers.

Officials said the information suggests that Iran could take action against facilities both inside and outside the Persian Gulf, even absent an overt military conflict.

The findings come as American officials closely watch Iran for its reaction to punishing international sanctions and to a drumbeat of Israeli threats to bomb Tehran’s nuclear sites, while talks aimed at preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons have slowed.

Now, of course, “developing plans” and actually executing them are entirely different things.  But, as irrational as Iran can be sometimes, the development of such plans has to be taken seriously.

If you’ve been paying attention over the past few months, we’ve been creeping any number of assets closer to Iran.  So obviously we believe where there is smoke we may see fire.

"Iran is very unpredictable," said a senior defense official. "We have been very clear what we as well as the international community find unacceptable."

The latest findings underscore why many military officials continue to focus on Iran as potentially the most serious U.S. national-security concern in the region, even as the crisis in Syria has deepened and other conflicts, as in Libya, have raged.

Defense officials cautioned there is no evidence that Tehran has moved assets in position to disrupt tankers or attack other sites, but stressed that Iran’s intent appears clear.

Iran has a number of proxies, as we all know, none of whom have much use for the US or the rest of the Western world.   What would possibly cause Iran to attempt to strike at outside targets?  The belief that they could get away with it:

But U.S. officials said some Iranians believe they could escape a direct counterattack by striking at other oil facilities, including those outside the Persian Gulf, perhaps by using its elite forces or external proxies.

I’m not sure how one thinks they can escape retribution by such tactics, but it is enough to believe you can.  And apparently there are some in Iran who do.  That’s dangerous, depending on where they sit in the decision making hierarchy.

The officials wouldn’t describe the intelligence or its sources, but analysts said statements in the Iranian press and by lawmakers in Tehran suggest the possibility of more-aggressive action in the Persian Gulf as a response to the new sanctions. Iranian oil sales have dropped and prices have remained low, pinching the government.

So, we wait.  And creep more assets into the area.  And wait.

As an aside to all the arm-chair defense experts who claim we shouldn’t be developing advanced weaponry because all our future wars are likely to be “just like Afghanistan”.

Really?

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO